Alaska Airlines flies medical workers to fight COVID-19

Desiree Cook and Shannon Hansen with our crew on Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to New York.

Shannon Hansen, an Anchorage-based family nurse practitioner, packed a photo of her family and a pillow with a picture of her dogs (a gift from her daughter) before embarking on a 21-day assignment in a New York hospital to help treat patients with COVID-19.

She says she’s always had an overwhelming desire to help others and felt called to help in a big way now. “I am headed to New York to serve in any way possible to help lighten the burden of this terrible virus. Patients are alone without their family and I want to help relieve their fear and provide the best care possible.”

Desiree Cook, also a registered nurse and pediatric nurse practitioner in Anchorage, is joining her on the assignment. She says they were very eager to go to New York City as this is the area that needs immediate medical support.

We are happy and humbled to be a part of something so much bigger than us.” – Cook

Shannon Hansen and Desiree Cook on their way to New York.

The Anchorage residents met during their first semester in college in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2008 and have been best friends ever since.

With the help of our long-time giving partner Angel Flight West (AFW), Alaska Airlines flew Hansen and Cook together on Wednesday from Anchorage to New York.

“I am feeling very blessed to have the ability to offer any assistance that I possibly can while in New York,” Hansen said. “I am humbled by the generosity and support that is being provided by Alaska Airlines and Angel Flight West.”

We empathize with essential workers who are risking their lives in the fight against COVID-19. Especially, medical workers whose sacrifices in this pandemic are unlike anything most of us can comprehend. That is why in tandem with AFW we are flying medical workers to areas hit hard by the virus.

Alaska Airlines is providing 1 million LIFT miles to AFW to fly medical staff free of charge to different locations across the United States to help relieve overwhelmed medical care systems responding to COVID-19. We will continue to monitor and fly medical workers where they’re needed most and do everything we can to support their heroic efforts.

“We are inspired by the care and courage of Desiree and Shannon toward the patients affected in New York,” says Josh Olsen, Executive Director, Angel Flight West. “We’re proud to further partner with Alaska Airlines to help be part of the solution to the COVID-19 crisis by arranging flights for these nurses and other medical personnel relocating to help areas highly impacted by the pandemic. Even in the most difficult of times, Alaska Airlines continues to provide access to those most in need of transportation to/from healthcare in the communities they serve.”

Thank you for your service

Desiree Cook

The pledges Cook and Hansen are making are not being taken lightly. Cook says she’s thankful that she and Hansen both have supportive families.

“I will miss my husband, kids, and dogs the most. I have a happy 7-year-old boy, a full-of-energy, 2-year-old girl, and two adorable dogs,” said Cook. “I will miss the little things such as morning breakfast and bedtime routines with them.”

Since she can remember, Cook says she wanted to be part of the medical field.

“There has never been a specific reason or incident that led me in this direction, it is just a part of who I am and a calling I know I have always been meant to do. I honestly can say I have the best and most rewarding job,” she said.

From all of us at Alaska, we’re in awe of essential workers and medical workers like Hansen and Cook for their remarkable, unprecedented service during this trying time. Thank you, stay safe.

How to get involved

For information on donating miles to the Alaska Airlines Disaster Relief Pool, visit our website.

Interested medical workers should reach out to Angel Flight West directly. Angel Flight West will initiate a screening to determine eligibility.